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Friday, November 11, 2011

Maquettes for Paul and all

Almost noon, and a snowy Saturday is well underway... The wandering husband is no longer racing on horseback to the pyramids at Giza but is back in Morocco. Meanwhile I've taken the youngest to wrestling and gone to the store and picked him up and hunted black pants and then followed the school marching band to lay wreaths in memory of our veterans while I thought about Causley's "At the British War Cemetery, Bayeux" and about my father, who at seventeen ran away from his life as a sharecropper's child and flew runs over Germany and France. Pax tecum.

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Film link:

Paul Digby asked to see the little movie of maquettes by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins yesterday. I sailed it his way, and Paul afterward said that I had not posted a link here... Well, maybe I did, but it's worth another look.  And I snitched the remarks Clive made on his blog about the making of this little film--addressed to "Gerwyn." You will notice that Clive is a very kind person; probably more than one take would be better!

Oddly enough, I know exactly what you mean about the maquette film. It does have an hypnotic/trance-like quality. I noticed the first time Pete Telfer showed it to me. I think there are a number of reasons why. 

Marly Youmans, poet and author of the chapter on the ‘miraculous’ in the monograph, travelled from her home in New York State to Wales for the exhibition opening, arriving a week early so as to spend some time with us. Pete Telfer had already filmed the live-action linking footage for the film, and was waiting for me to come over to his place to record the narration, which was to be drawn from the chapter by another American contributor to the book, Kathe Koja. Kathe’s piece on maquettes was beautifully written… she’s an acclaimed novelist… but she was unable to come to Wales as she had to be in the US to complete a stage adaptation of her last book. I had supposed I would read her words myself, though intuition told me that an American accent would suit better, as would a woman’s voice. Enter Marly, who graciously agreed to stand in for Kathe. The sections of narration were recorded in Pete’s young daughter’s bedroom. (Thank you Alis!) With Pete… who is not built daintily… his recording machine and huge microphone plus Marly… who is dainty… crammed into the small toy-filled space, the only place left for me was a mattress on the floor, from where I offered occasional directions. (Marly says that I lay there in my sunglasses, which sounds very louche!) Marly is a ‘one-take’ kind of a girl, and it was her innate poet’s rhythm and dreamy, Southern-accented delivery that resulted, in part, in the hypnotic quality of the film. Pete had not initially been won over by the notion of a narration, but as soon as he heard his playback of Marly, he was enthusiastic to use the recordings.

The other aspect that lends the hypnotic quality is the soundtrack Pete recorded at Ty Isaf on the beautiful Spring day he came to film the linking sections. The sash-window of the blue bedroom where we filmed was open, and as I hung the maquettes on thin thread in the aperture, we were surrounded by the sounds of nesting birds in the rookery beyond, a perfect accompaniment to the painted card figures swaying in the breeze. The first animation sequence by contrast is completely without sound, which further emphasises a dream-like state, because it feels as though the puppet is in an other-worldly vacuum. (My head?)

Gerwyn, I’m delighted that you like Pete’s film so much. I think that it perfectly captured the spirit of the moment in the week before the exhibition opened, and it’s great that you ‘got it’. Everything about it was improvised, from the animation sequences made in a single afternoon and evening on our dining room floor and table (my partner Peter taking the stills while I animated the figures) to the last minute idea to film the maquettes on threads in the window. Pete is a guerilla-film-maker, enthusiastically throwing himself into the spirit of creativity wherever he finds it. The man is a force of nature!

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And now I really must get down to work!


  1. I am so glad to see this here!
    If it was posted before, I missed it (!) and searching for specific posts is tricky for me (challenged I am!)

    Thank you, Marly.
    I find this quite fascinating!

  2. I love to read about these kinds of free and creative artistic collaborations! EWay to go, Marly et al!

  3. Oops, that was meant to be "Way" (I'm a terrible keyboardist.)

  4. Paul, glad you liked it (yesterday and today!)

    marja-leena, I suppose it is often eWay these days... Yes, it was all rather spur of the moment and amusing--particularly Clive in the sunglasses.

  5. I don't know if I saw this here or on Dave's blog, but it is wonderful. Those rooks in the background, as well as Marly's reading and text, help to make it so, though of course the creations themselves are amazing.

  6. Robbi,

    The rooks are wonderful too! Yes, going to visit Aberystwyth was like a little vacation in another world--little work, much pleasure of a rather high order.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.